Christian Congregations as Communities of Care

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2023) | Viewed by 8394

Special Issue Editors


E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Practical Theology, Protestant Theological University, NL-9700 CB Groningen, The Netherlands
Interests: ecclesial practices; Christian congregations worldwide; collaborative research approaches and methods

E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Practical Theology, Protestant Theological University, NL-9700 CB Groningen, The Netherlands
Interests: homiletics; pastoral care; empirical methodologies

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Congregations are places of worship, but they can also be described as ‘communities of care.’ While this may sound like an ideal endorsed and encouraged by church leaders and clergy, it is also a description of the ‘real church’; research demonstrates that a large number of congregations can indeed be conceived as caring communities (Wuthnow 2005; Swinton 2020). Congregations can create and sustain small support groups that genuinely evolve into settings in which people care for one another. In congregations, both professionals and volunteers offer forms of one-to-one pastoral care. These are places where values of support, care, and compassion are emphasized through mediums such as sermons and congregational bulletins. Congregations can also offer resources to the wider community, providing space for meetings and events to be held on their premises. They may also have active relationships with mental health and existential care networks in wider society. Generally speaking, members of the congregation who need material, financial, or mental help can depend on their congregations. Care practices often transcend the insider/outsider dichotomy and demonstrate the fluidity of institutional or congregational boundaries, thereby embodying the church’s vocation in the world.

This Special Issue encourages the submission of a broad range of papers in order to elaborate on the empirical and theoretical aspects of congregations as communities and/or networks of care. The following themes may be included: How does Pastoral Care embody Christian community? What types of care networks can we detect in congregations, and how are they interrelated? Who are the actors in these care networks, and who is ‘served’ by these networks? What kind of needs are served in these networks? How are pastoral care practices related to networks of mental and existential care in wider society? What do we know about migrant churches as networks of care? How is the relationship between chaplaincy and congregations shaped? How do disasters and/or crises influence care relationships in Christian churches? How do denominational organizations and differing theologies, such as pentecostalism, reformed, Roman Catholic, or orthodox theologies, influence the shaping of communities as networks of care? How do the Jewish and Christian traditions, with their norms and values often embedded in narratives, influence congregations by shaping how we care for one another in relationships? How can congregations generate or become inclusive communities of care, ‘including’ people with mental or physical disabilities, dementia, etc.? What is the place of the congregation as a network of care in the missional church conversation in terms of its relation to the dichotomies of maintenance and mission, and come-and-go structures?

This Special Issue seeks to establish a forum for quantitative and qualitative research on congregations from across the globe, and for meta-studies that include references to existing empirical or historical research. It invites contributions from the fields of practical theology, empirical theology, sociology of religion, psychology of religion, homiletics, diaconal studies, pastoral care, mission studies, church history, spiritual care, and chaplaincy studies.

Prof. Dr. Hendrik Pieter De Roest
Dr. Theo Pleizier
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

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Keywords

  • congregations
  • care
  • community

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

16 pages, 231 KiB  
Article
Auditing Congregational Health: Exploring Members’ Well-Being in the Church and Commitment to the Congregation
by Karen Zwijze-Koning and Hendrik Pieter De Roest
Religions 2023, 14(10), 1236; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14101236 - 26 Sep 2023
Viewed by 819
Abstract
The field of congregational health research is missing a relational approach to the member–congregation connection. We developed and tested a questionnaire that evaluates the perception of church health factors in statements that stay close to the feelings and attitudes of the members. We [...] Read more.
The field of congregational health research is missing a relational approach to the member–congregation connection. We developed and tested a questionnaire that evaluates the perception of church health factors in statements that stay close to the feelings and attitudes of the members. We applied the instrument to map feelings of well-being and commitment with 513 members of a large, Dutch, Protestant congregation. This study thus explores relational concepts, such as members feeling at home in the congregation, their turnover intention, the atmosphere within the community, and whether members feel seen and heard within the community. Seven factors emerge from the analysis, and all of them show significant empirical correlation with members’ overall satisfaction and commitment levels. The instrument also makes it possible to discern between the evaluations of sleeping members, involved members, and insiders (frequent attenders), which is a discernment that existing instruments lack. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Christian Congregations as Communities of Care)
21 pages, 18378 KiB  
Article
Walking in the City: Christian Spirituality in Amsterdam through the Eyes of Michel de Certeau
by Erica Meijers
Religions 2023, 14(8), 968; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14080968 - 26 Jul 2023
Viewed by 970
Abstract
This contribution investigates the spiritual position of a Christian congregation in urban contexts of gentrification and de-churching. A project in Amsterdam will serve as a case to explore crucial issues for shrinking congregations in ‘up-and-coming’ neighbourhoods, who aim to transcend the insider/outsider dichotomy [...] Read more.
This contribution investigates the spiritual position of a Christian congregation in urban contexts of gentrification and de-churching. A project in Amsterdam will serve as a case to explore crucial issues for shrinking congregations in ‘up-and-coming’ neighbourhoods, who aim to transcend the insider/outsider dichotomy between the congregation and its (urban) context. The project at hand shows a shift from exclusively Christian congregations to communities of people with various outlooks of life and from professional structures to cooperation between professionals and volunteers. Using the work of the French theologian Michel de Certeau as a city guide, and his understanding of the empty tomb as a key theological concept, the paper reflects on epistemological and methodological questions brought about by these shifts. After that, issues closely connected to the observed shifts are discussed: the questions of language (how to deal with different ways to express and interpret experiences) and ownership (who is in control in situations of plurality). The article argues for an urban Christian spirituality based on an epistemology of not-knowing and otherness, informed by methodologies of receptivity and desire, leading to practices of multilingualism and open ownership-structures. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Christian Congregations as Communities of Care)
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14 pages, 676 KiB  
Article
A University-Church-Community Look at Community Health Using Community-Based-Participatory Research
by Jane Pfeiffer, Monita Baba Djara and Timothy Gillespie
Religions 2023, 14(6), 760; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060760 - 08 Jun 2023
Viewed by 1248
Abstract
The purpose of this sequential explanatory mixed-method approach using quantitative methods followed by qualitative inquiry was to assess a Southern California community’s perception of its health and of barriers to improving health. The qualitative aspects of this mixed-method CBPR project by a church-university-community [...] Read more.
The purpose of this sequential explanatory mixed-method approach using quantitative methods followed by qualitative inquiry was to assess a Southern California community’s perception of its health and of barriers to improving health. The qualitative aspects of this mixed-method CBPR project by a church-university-community partnership further describe member perceptions of their community and contributors/barriers to community health. Four focus group interviews were conducted over eight months at two elementary schools with the mothers of school children (N = 21) in the 2017–2018 and 2018–2019 school years, including one Spanish-only group. Four themes emerged, describing the contributors and barriers to community health and well-being: lack of connection, poor communication, fear/anxiety, and lack of access to affordable healthcare. The findings highlight how small anchor institutions, those whose primary mission is not health (church, school, trailer park, local businesses, etc.), can be facilitators of health and address these disruptions of connectivity, communication, and care present within the healthcare system itself, and its disappointed community recipients of “care”. The church as a community of care, in collaboration with educational institutions, is suited to invite community participation, affirm humanness, build trust, and offer increased access to care in the neighborhoods surrounding its location. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Christian Congregations as Communities of Care)
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28 pages, 332 KiB  
Article
Congregational Care: Philosophical Reflection on a Case Study
by Joyce E. Bellous
Religions 2023, 14(4), 450; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14040450 - 27 Mar 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1093
Abstract
Congregational care strengthens relationships and supports spiritual growth. This article establishes groundwork for developing congregational care at First Baptist in Edmonton (FBC) by introducing a spiritual needs approach to engage people in conversation and by using a Spiritual Styles Assessment that has 36 [...] Read more.
Congregational care strengthens relationships and supports spiritual growth. This article establishes groundwork for developing congregational care at First Baptist in Edmonton (FBC) by introducing a spiritual needs approach to engage people in conversation and by using a Spiritual Styles Assessment that has 36 questions to foster communication among congregational members. The article has four parts. The first introduces the congregation and a list of spiritual needs. The second part includes information about the Spiritual Styles Assessment and spirituality research. Parts three and four describe attitudes, skills and practices that enhance communicative action by helping people talk together and practice radical welcome as a foundation for congregational care. The purpose for establishing a foundation for congregational care is to suggest a way forward for a congregation that faces significant differences in values, beliefs, expectations, personal experience, and faith assumptions, even among people who have known each other for years. FBC is trying to find ways to reach understanding and offer care to all who enter the Sanctuary. The purpose of the article is to reflect philosophically on what congregants need from each other as signs of respect, inclusion and caring. The article outlines attitudes, skills, and practices that create communicative communities that are capable of nurturing congregational care by developing human understanding based on faith experience and communicative action. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Christian Congregations as Communities of Care)
17 pages, 298 KiB  
Article
Homemaking in and with Migrant Churches as Communities of Care
by Ma. Adeinev M. Reyes-Espiritu
Religions 2023, 14(2), 257; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14020257 - 15 Feb 2023
Viewed by 1613
Abstract
Research on migration and religion reports the significance of religion to migrants, particularly those who self-identify as religious. In particular, migrant churches have served as a sanctuary, a venue for social networking, and a community supportive of migrants’ wellbeing, to name a few [...] Read more.
Research on migration and religion reports the significance of religion to migrants, particularly those who self-identify as religious. In particular, migrant churches have served as a sanctuary, a venue for social networking, and a community supportive of migrants’ wellbeing, to name a few things. However, migrant churches are also criticized for the possibility of becoming instruments of control over migrants. Heeding Boccagni and Hondagneu-Sotelo’s invitation to use the “homemaking optic” to inquire into the experience of integration of migrants, this paper analyzes how migrant churches foster migrants’ becoming at home in the receiving societies using Philippine migrant communities as a case study. Data is gathered through semi-structured interviews with ministers and pastoral workers in migrant churches. The qualities that characterize their homemaking through belonging to and serving in a migrant church are “identifying with each other”, “creating a shared space”, “advocating for migrants’ rights and welfare”, “sharing resources”, and “adjusting to the receiving society”. The homemaking optic shifts attention towards the subjective realities of migrants against the background of various inequalities that present homemaking as a struggle for many. Migrant churches, through their values, beliefs, and practices, foster an atmosphere that welcomes, supports, encourages, and accompanies migrants towards becoming at home in the receiving country. Using practical theologian LaMothe’s three “dialectical pairs of personal knowing” proposed to underpin just care relationships, I present how migrant churches become communities of care when members, as care receivers, are recognized as they are and whose real “needs and desires” are acknowledged. In this study, the essential role of migrant churches in migrants’ homemaking is examined, emphasizing the notion that churches function as communities of care as they acknowledge the identities, subjectivities, and agency of their members. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Christian Congregations as Communities of Care)
15 pages, 525 KiB  
Article
Fostering Practices of Salvation: On Communities of Care and Ecclesial Practices
by Hans Schaeffer and Koos Tamminga
Religions 2023, 14(2), 256; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14020256 - 15 Feb 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1615
Abstract
This article explores how Christian faith communities respond to challenges in health care. These challenges are described, and a broader context is sketched, through an exploration of an ethics of care. Subsequently, two examples of Christian communities who respond intentionally to the need [...] Read more.
This article explores how Christian faith communities respond to challenges in health care. These challenges are described, and a broader context is sketched, through an exploration of an ethics of care. Subsequently, two examples of Christian communities who respond intentionally to the need for care are presented and studied by using four sub-elements of care (attentiveness, responsibility, competence, and responsiveness) as a heuristic lens. Next, the relationship between care and salvation is discussed. Concludingly, the article argues that Christian communities of care are well equipped for sustainable caregiving because of their spiritual resources, and because they provide a life-context well-suited for caregiving. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Christian Congregations as Communities of Care)
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